We all gain by reducing poverty
TheStar.com – comment – We all gain by reducing poverty
December 11, 2007
John Stevenson, Community Editorial Board
The need to improve the quality of life for those among us affected by poverty and all its manifestations has been a focus of this newspaper for some time.
Much has been written regarding national, provincial, regional and municipal anti-poverty strategies. Several refreshing proposals aimed at improving current policies and practices have been offered.
Puzzling to me, however, is why most of us insist on examining this subject strictly based upon statistical economic indicators and governmental accountability.
Each of us has a vested interest in improving general well-being in our local community. To suppose that the eradication of poverty will be achieved through an all-encompassing government policy is naive.
Impoverishment in all its aspects, for vividly apparent reasons, is for the most part localized inside clearly identifiable boundaries. It seems logical then that the most effective solutions will be found in vigorous local strategies developed and implemented by community leaders from every discipline and socio-economic background.
Poverty crosses all geographic, ethnic, cultural, age and gender boundaries and to think otherwise is to be uninformed. Before meaningful progress will be achieved, we must have a consensus in our community that a reduction in poverty is a good thing for all of us.
Most of us will say: Of course it is. But do we really have this communal consensus?
Sadly, many of us prefer to live by the adage “out of sight, out of mind” and have long forgotten or ignored the “one for all, all for one” attitude so necessary for sustainable community prosperity.
Historically, governments have legislated and policed economic legislation relating to minimum wage, health protection and various welfare programs.
Why was this necessary? Because unless mandated by law it would have been left to the contradictory elements constituting our human nature.
Left to our own devices, it is likely that business and industry would compensate labour as little as possible to guarantee the lowest cost of production â€“ even at the expense of creating a growing lower class. What our government cannot do is legislate attitudes. For this we rely on ourselves.
It must be acknowledged with some admiration that many individuals and groups donate substantial sums toward the expansion and improvement of health services, arts and culture, and for excellence in higher education. This kind of beneficence is less visible on the anti-poverty circuit.
Research study upon study shows a clear link between poverty and crime. Anything that can be done to eliminate the root causes of the former will reduce the growth of the latter.
A collaborative effort through a true and active community partnership of business leaders, educators, churches, service clubs and existing social service providers is what is needed to best satisfy the requirements for developing and implementing a workable anti-poverty strategy tailored to a specific community.
Government anti-poverty initiatives are formulated from statistical data analysis across too broad a spectrum. I will choose to rely on observation and human experience over statistical research that categorizes people by number. It is wise to remember that statistically defined national economic well-being does not mean a prosperous and just society for all.
Only a cynic or first-rate pessimist would suggest that nothing of consequence is being done to remove roadblocks impeding progress for the less privileged. Many agencies, charities and foundations are working independently to provide opportunity funding for programs aimed at assisting the less privileged in improving their capacity for social and economic advancement.
The key to long-term success, however, is for all funders and service providers to collaborate without personal agendas and demonstrate their “one-for-all” attitude by joining together to attack the problem.
This is the best approach to reducing the root causes of a situation that, left unattended, will continue to be an embarrassment to us all.
John Stevenson is former member of the Star’s Community Editorial Board.